Hydrogen Gas Cloud to Smash into Milky Way Galaxy

Author:  Ramlagan Nadia

Date:  January 2008

In approximately 20 to 40 million years, Smith's cloud, a giant cloud composed of hydrogen gas will slam into the Milky Way galaxy, resulting in the formation of as many as a million new stars, a study from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has found. The explosion from the collision will cause a spectacular firework-like display within the local group, a group comprised of 30 galaxies, including our own galaxy the Milky Way.

The leading edge of this cloud is already interacting with gas from our Galaxy. "This is most likely a gas cloud left over from the formation of the Milky Way or gas stripped from a neighbor galaxy," said Felix J. Lockman of the NRAO, one of the astronomers who headed a study to research the cloud. "When it hits, it could set off a tremendous burst of star formation. Many of those stars will be very massive, rushing through their lives quickly and exploding as supernovae.".

Astronomers used the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope to study Smith's cloud. Located at the NRAO's site in Green Bank, Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the telescope is the world's largest "fully steerable" radio telescope. Discovered in 1963 at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, the front edge of the cloud has already begun to hit the galaxy.

Written by Nadia Ramlagan

Reviewed by Suvash Shrestha

Published by Pooja Ghatalia